Native American family: It takes a village

We have all heard it said that "It takes a Village to Raise a Child." I've been thinking about the true meaning behind these words. It is not about capability; it is about contribution. It takes many individuals to raise a child in wholeness. It takes skills, talents, spiritual gifts, and contributions from an entire community. If everyone shows up for the child and gives a small part of themselves for the betterment, how much richer will that child be? How much more supported would the parents feel?

As an indigenous person, I feel drawn to this communal living. Perhaps, this is because my ancestors believe all children born belonged to the tribe, and it was everyone's responsibility to teach them and raise them as they would their own. 

Delwin Kassi 8

I love being around people and sharing my gifts and talents with any adults, youth, or children who can benefit from anything I have to offer. As a single father, I know my daughter needs so much more than I alone can offer. We are very blessed to have many people in our circle who continually make themselves available to love and support my daughter through her life stages. I know she will be richer because of this.

I believe we shape the next generation by what we share. All the sacred writings say the Creator did not make us to walk alone. He wanted us to live in community with each other. We thrive on being part of the whole.

Multi-generational homes

Native culture has always lived in a community. In my ancestors' time, the bands moved together from one location to another because they all depended on each other's skills to survive. In my humble opinion, our traditions perpetuate this sense of family because our celebrations and our rites of passage have always involved participation by the whole society.

For example, when a baby is born, the whole community comes out to offer blessings, just as when someone passes into the spirit world, we gather to tell stories, offer prayers, and share a meal. 

At the end of each year, we also come together to record our personal and family history through our tradition called "Winter Count." This is a record depicted in words or pictures on buffalo hide. Everyone participates in the remembering and the retelling. Storytelling is one of those gathering times between families and communities to share the knowledge of where we have been so we can look to where we are going.

When I sing a prayer song to my daughter at bedtime and use our Lakota language, even in something as simple as this, I call upon our ancestors to join us from the spirit world. The beauty in this is that we are never alone.

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Staying on the right path

By sharing each family's milestones and ceremonies, we learn how to use our positive energy to enrich the entire community. Giving and receiving from each other is how we express ourselves as a people. This is how we take care of each other — by walking the Red Road — walking in a positive way. This spirit walk is not of our own direction but by the Creator's instructions. There is no competition on your path because the Creator designed it for you. The only competition is with yourself and your desire to assert your will over his. So, we learn to stay humble as we walk this path together.

It takes a village for us to stay on the right track: to encourage and remind each other that we are so much more together than separate; to encourage and remind each other to give up the bad practices that deplete our body, mind, and spirit; and to be dedicated to helping our fellow man.  

You will hear Indigenous people say, "We borrow the earth from our children," because what we create today will shape the world they inherit from us in the future. Our sacred responsibility is to make sure what we place in their hands a world where love and unity prevail. A world that took each one of us—together, a Village—to create.

Oyate Wanzi … One Nation. One Tribe. One People.

 

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Topics: Stories of Hope, Culture and Identity

Written by Delwin Fiddler, Jr

Delwin Fiddler, Jr. is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Sans Arc band, and a world-renowned Native American performing Artist. Delwin has performed for two American Presidents and the Royal Family in England. His traditional Grass Dance is on display in a continual loop at the Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. Delwin’s Lakota name is Hehakapa Mahto (Elk Bear). He is a third-generation grandson of Hehakapa Elk Head, the historical Keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe. Delwin is an Alumni of St. Joseph's Indian School, where he attended from 1985 to 1990. Although being separated from his parents and his culture at an early age was traumatic, Delwin credits his years at St. Joseph's as a time of self-discovery as well as academic learning. He says, “The time I spent at St. Joe’s taught me a lot about presentation, manners, and responsibility, preparing me to be successful in life off the reservation.” In December 2020, Delwin returned to his former school after 20-plus years and performed for the staff, faculty, and teachers. It was a full-circle moment for him. Aside from performing, Delwin’s work involves a commitment to protecting and defending Mother Earth. He founded PAZA, Tree of Life to foster healing, reconciliation, and unity among all people. It is Delwin’s hope that restoring knowledge of traditional ways will begin to break the cycle of oppression and inspire the next generation as leaders.